As we have discussed in previous posts, pets fall into a complicated spot in family legal matters. According to Pennsylvania law, pets are property. According to many pet owners, pets are members of the family. Because of these differing points of view, it is wise for divorcing spouses to resolve pet issues outside of the court system.
Discuss the following factors with your spouse:
- Who purchased the pet? Whoever had the pet first might be the one to keep it after the divorce. Purchase receipts can be important, as well as veterinary and licensing records.
- Who took care of the pet’s daily needs? The relationship you each have with your pet is important. If one of you managed the pet’s daily care, perhaps that person might be the one to continue taking care of the animal. Veterinary records can show who brings the pet in for care.
- Where will the children live? It often makes sense to keep the children and the pet together when children are attached to the pet.
- Who has the space and resources to provide care? Consider expenses for food, grooming and medical care as well as space requirements.
- Is one of you staying in the marital home? To avoid uprooting a pet, agreeing to let the pet stay with whoever is staying in the marital home might be a good idea.
- Is it possible to share custody? If you and your ex do not live far apart and can agree to shared custody terms, you might create a pet parenting plan.
- Did you resolve the issue in a prenuptial agreement? The decision might already be made for you if you agreed to pet custody terms in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
Answering these questions can help you create an appropriate and fair plan for you in determining pet custody. However, if you cannot come to an agreement, then you must leave the decision in the hands of a judge. Whichever way you choose to go, having legal representation will benefit you greatly.